Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider: a woman being stragulated
They choked the fun out of this game.

After the first Tomb Raider reboot surprised me by being an awkwardly violent and fun roller coaster ride, Rise of the Tomb Raider turned out to be Tomb Raider without the gore, but bloated to the brim with unnecessary, unfun stuff to do, as is custom these days.

Again I was blown away by how good the game looks. The animations are super smooth and it’s a joy to watch Lara jump and climb on things, that crumble and explode just a split second after you hit ‘E’. ‘E’ is for climbing. The tombs, still generously filled with skulls and more complete dead, look fantastic. Alas, it went downwards from there.

For some reason they managed to make Lara look and feel less charming. The writing is worse than in Tomb Raider and so is the voice acting even though Lara is voiced by the same actress as in the first game. I didn’t like Lara much in this.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Lara looks exhausted
That was my expression through most of the game.

The game takes place in Siberia, but most of the villagers Lara encounters, who are of ancient Greek descent, speak perfect English and seem to be dressed for some silly adventure in Sherwood Forest. Everyone manages to be boring and forgettable.

Rise of the Tom Raider: some dude
Hello, I’m some bland, questionable mixture of love interest and father figure.

The story in Rise of the Tom Raider is even less engaging than in Tomb Raider, but I didn’t miss it much next to all the pretty stuff and exciting action. What I did miss was the absurd amount of gore from the first game and Lara getting the shit kicked out of her. Instead clothes getting progressively filthy and torn we get silly customs, which might add some bonus skill we didn’t need in the first place. All in all none of the aforementioned criticism stopped me from enjoying the game. What really made this a bad game for me is the blown up crafting and progression system.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: a Rambo III reference
It turns blue.

I like the first Tomb Raider because it felt streamlined and to the point. It already had a skill and crafting system, but it was small and not the main focus of the game. In Rise of the Tomb Raider they went completely Ubisoft and shat as much collectible bullshit on your map as possible. It completely destroys the pacing of the game. It’s absurd when the story hints at urgency because bad shit is imminent (it always is), but you can’t be bothered because your skill in Ancient Greek just went up. Now you can go back to you first camp site, in a completely different area of the game, because you are finally able to read that inscription you weren’t able to read two hours before, which reveals some ancient coin stashes on your map, which you now can dig up while always hitting Q (stupid view), which turns the world grey with an annoying sound effect and highlights stuff you can collect or use. When you have finally collected enough coins and shit, you go to the shop, which is again in a completely different area, and get that thing for the thing to improve your thing so you can finally get into that optional tomb to get the thing you wanted. Also every weapon is now available in 4 different flavors, which all can be upgraded a thousand times, if you’re just willing to to go to every symbol on your map. Such fun. Especially since you’ll headshot every enemy anyway with your first bow, made of twigs and love – at least on normal difficulty. Hurray for Murder Girl!

Rise of the Tomb Raider: lara walking through a gore splattered tunnel
A little homage to the first game.

I played Rise of the Tomb Raider nearly twice as long as Tomb Raider, and had about half the fun. If you liked the first game, you’ll probably have fun with the second installment too, just not as much, which is a shame because if they had cut all the unnecessary bullshit it would have been much closer to it in quality. Do yourself a favor and chose a higher difficulty. Remember climbing is ‘E’.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Lara walking an ice encrusted ledge in an full plate armor set
I’m glad I brought my climbing armor.

Info: The game was developed by Crystal Dynamics and released not so exclusively in 2015 for Xbox and came to PC in early 2016. Buy it on a sale if you enjoyed its predecessor.

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